Disarranging Mine

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June 28, 2002

8:34 p.m.

It's Friday! Yes it is. Yes it is. Yes it is!

I've always had a little problem with instruction. Receiving instruction, that is. These days, I freely admit it's mostly because I have my own idea of the way things should be done. But, it wasn't always that way.

As a child, I was taught not to question. Not to question my parents. Not to question my teacher. Not to question.

Something happened in the second grade.... I remember it just like it was yesterday....

We lived three doors from the school I went to and since my mom didn't work (until I was in the fifth grade), I went home for lunch everyday. By the time I was in the second grade, my brother was in kindergarten, and since kindergarten was only half days back then, he was home for lunch too. My dad's shop was about a mile away from the house, and he came home for lunch everyday. I don't remember what we had for those lunches, but I'm sure my mom had something on the table.

This one particular day, though, before school, my mom told me I was going to have lunch at school. She had something to do and I wouldn't be able to come home for lunch. I can't begin to tell you how this made me feel. Scared. Nervous. I didn't know what to do. I had never had lunch at school before. I had no idea what to expect, nor did I have any idea what was expected of me.

The lunch menu was published in the morning paper everyday. She told me the school was having pizza and corn and apple brown Betty and milk for lunch. I really liked pizza. But, I wondered to myself how you could eat pizza and milk together. When we had pizza at home, it was usually with beer. Not that I was a big beer drinker in the second grade, but on special occasions, like pizza night, I might get a sip or two. And, I had never heard of apple brown Betty. I had no idea what that was.

My mom gave me a dollar, and the one instruction she told me was that I was to buy a lunch ticket with it. She told me that one dollar would buy a lunch ticket worth five lunches.

Besides that, I guess my mom thought I would know what to do. I'm not sure, because she didn't tell me, and I didn't ask.

The anxiety was compounding. Not only did I have to figure out how to have lunch at school, I had been entrusted with a dollar. Prior to that, I had never possessed a dollar. This was a lot of money. This was the big time and I knew I wasn't quite ready for it.

One thing I had going for me, though, was my teacher. Mrs. Murray was a real comfort. She liked me and I liked her. Every morning she took a lunch count of which students would be buying their lunch, which students had brought their lunch, and which students would be going home for lunch. Usually, I was the only one who went home for lunch. I think she was a little surprised when I raised my hand after she asked who was buying their lunch.

She asked me if I had money for lunch. I told her that I had a dollar for a lunch ticket. I tried to tell her that I didn't know what to do, but that didn't seem to matter. She was more interested in the dollar. She told me to give it to her. Oh, no. I couldn't give it to her. I had to have it to buy lunch. She then explained that she would send the dollar down to the cafeteria and someone would use it to buy my lunch ticket. Oh. She also told me I didn't have to worry about holding on to the lunch ticket, that she would keep it for me. Ah. Even though I really didn't understand how Mrs. Murray holding onto my lunch ticket would allow me to have lunch in the cafeteria, I finally relinquished the dollar to her.

For the rest of the morning I worried. I worried about my dollar. I worried about my lunch ticket. I hadn't seen anyone bring the ticket back to the room. Maybe they brought it at recess. I worried about what to do at lunch. I was so consumed with this lunch situation, that that's all I thought about all morning.

Finally, the lunch bell. Soon this would all be over.

We all lined up for lunch and in a single file, made our way to the cafeteria. As I was about to reach the head of the line, Mrs. Murray handed me my lunch ticket. Whew! I watched the other kids as they handed their lunch tickets to the cafeteria lady. Observation -- one of the great learning tools.

When it came my turn to hand over my lunch ticket, I told the cafeteria lady that I was supposed to have five lunches. She told me to just give her the ticket. Uh. Okay. Not one to argue, I gave it to her.

The pizza was something like I'd never seen or tasted before. It was a single square, the crust was thick and greasy, and the meat was hamburger. I had never had hamburger pizza before. Taste-wise, it was okay. The corn was cold. The cafeteria lady gave me a choice between white or chocolate milk. Chocolate, of course. The apple brown Betty was out of this world. It basically consisted of cooked apples in a deepdish crust, with crumbly dough and brown sugar on top. Delicious!

As I tried to hurry to eat my lunch, I was very interested to watch the other kids in the cafeteria. Well, the dining room wasn't really part of the cafeteria. The gymnasium functioned as the eating area during lunchtime. Some kids actually spilled their milk. Some other kids actually fell off the cafeteria table bench. One overly heavy kid leaned back on his bench in a burst of laughter which caused the whole table to tip over on him, including the kids sitting on the other side of the table. Everyone was talking. I had never seen such wild behavior at lunchtime before.

After I wolfed down my food, I went back to the serving line. The cafeteria lady asked me what I wanted. I told her that I was back for my second lunch. She told me I didn't get a second lunch. I told her, oh yes I do. I get five lunches. She then tried to explain to me that I don't get five lunches on the same day. I didn't quite understand. Needless to say, I was very embarrassed and a little crushed. I was so expecting five lunches that day.

I really wished someone would have completely explained the situation to me.

Now a'days even though you may not hear me actually question something, you can bet that somehow I'm getting to the bottom of the situation. Usually.

Footnote: I laughed so hard when I was writing this story.

last updated: when he peered out the window on Hemlock Road in nineteen fifty-six

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L.M. Carnes 2002.

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